In what could be a discomforting finding for the Congress and Left parties, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, headed by Congress president Smt. Sonia Gandhi, who is also chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre, has adjudged Gujarat, under Chief Minister Narendra Modi, as ?the number one state in economic freedom index followed by Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.? A study, ?Economic Freedom for States in India?, carried out by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, the think-tank of the Foundation, has come to this conclusion after analysing ?economic freedom? in different states of India.
The study has defined economic freedom as ?absence of government coercion or constraint in the production, distribution, or consumption of goods and services beyond the extent necessary for citizens to protect and maintain liberty by itself?. In other words, the Foundation does not agree that individual liberty is under threat in Narendra Modi'sGujarat.
This study is the first of its kind in the country, which has ranked various Indian states on a newly developed Economic Freedom Index, on the lines the of World Economic Freedom (EFW) index of the Fraser Institute, Canada. Economies having higher EFW index are considered more business conducive, have more competition, more open entry and exit, greater opportunities for entrepreneurship and consequently they attract higher economic investments. Countries with a higher index have achieved a higher economic growth. The same has been found true in the Indian context.
The study is all praise for Gujarat as it grades the state government on its political decision making, the extent to which justice is served, levels of corruption and the extent of regulation in the labour market. The Indian index consists of 25 different components spread in the three broad areas, namely, size of government, security of property rights and regulation of credit and business. The study finds Gujarat on the top the these points.
?In Gujarat, the least number of mandays are lost as a result of strikes and lockouts as a ratio of total industrial workers in the state.? The report also says that Gujarat has performed very well in the field of economic management and disinvestment.
On the size of government, Gujarat is the leader. For only a small share of the GSDP is accounted for by government services. Here, the government has a small role as a subsidiser. Power subsidies are among the lowest in Gujarat. The study also finds that the power situation in Gujarat is one of the best in the country.
?Safety of life is an essential component (of economic freedom). Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have a very small share of the total crimes being accounted for by violent crimes. The share is much higher in Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Assam, where murder, rape, kidnapping, abduction, riots, arson and dowry deaths are more rampant,? said the study by the Foundation. The findings do not end here. ?In Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (all BJP-ruled states) a large share of the cases that are taken up by the police are ensured complete investigation, unlike in West Bengal, Punjab, Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam.
The report claims that Gujarat has the most business-friendly environment. ?In Gujarat, the least number of mandays are lost as a result of strikes and lockouts as a ratio of total industrial workers in the state.? The report also says that Gujarat has performed very well in the field of disinvestment of public sectors.
Gujarat'sliberal licence regime has also come for praise in the report. ?Constraints on trade imposed by market and licence fees were also included in economic freedom. Corruption is also seen to be relatively low in Modi'sGujarat. ?Corruption is measured in terms of cases pending investigation as a ratio of total cases registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act and related Acts. ?In Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, a smaller share of the total cases registered are pending investigation. The situation, however, is bleak in West Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Bihar.? (FOC)